U.S. women’s national team players say attorney Rich Nichols will no longer serve as the union’s counsel in contract negotiations with the U.S. Soccer Federation.
The players’ current contract runs through Saturday. Nichols had represented U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, which had become more frequent this month as the deadline approached.
Nichols became executive director of the USWNTPA in late 2014.
“We are focused on productive conversations with U.S. Soccer regarding our future,” the players said in a statement released Wednesday. “We are also grateful for the tremendous ongoing support for women’s soccer from all of our beloved fans worldwide, and look forward to seeing everyone over the course of the NWSL season, as well as at the 2017 SheBelieves Cup in March.”
The players also thanked Nichols for his service. Nichols did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The players said they could not comment further on the matter. Neither the USWNTPA nor U.S. Soccer have filed a 60-day notice of termination that is necessary for a work stoppage, meaning talks will continue into the new year.
There were no talks scheduled this weekend.
“We remain committed to working together with the players to continue negotiating a new CBA,” U.S. Soccer Director of Communications Neil Buethe said late Wednesday.
Early this year the U.S. Soccer Federation filed a lawsuit to clarify the Dec. 31 expiration date of the contract with the players’ union. The union had maintained that a memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time, ostensibly opening up the possibility of a labor action during the Olympics this past summer.
But a federal judge ruled in June that the team remained bound by a no-strike provision from its 2005-12 collective bargaining agreement.
A group of players had also filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in late March that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The players maintained that their male national team counterparts earned in many cases far more than they did. There has been no decision in the EEOC complaint.
U.S. soccer has said that much of pay disparity was the result of differences in the collective bargaining agreements with each team.
The women’s team had set up its compensation structure, which included a guaranteed salary rather than a pay-for-play model like the men, in the last collective bargaining agreement. The players also earn salaries – paid by the federation – for playing in the National Women’s Soccer League.
The women’s team also receives other benefits, including health care paid for by the U.S. Olympic Committee, that the men’s national team players don’t receive, the federation has maintained.
The next major tournament for the team is the SheBelieves Cup, which is scheduled for March. The first SheBelieves Cup tournament was held earlier this year, featuring matches against France, England and Germany in advance of the Olympic Games.